It can be scary to start school! Many children feel nervous in the lead-up to the first day of school. Below are five tips to help ease this back-to-school anxiety.
Affirm Their Feelings
Keep in mind that any change or transition is stressful, even when it is a mostly positive change. Tell your child that it is okay to have mixed feelings about this change, to feel more than one thing at the same time.
Take Practical Steps to Prepare
See what practical things you can do that will give your child more information about what school will be like. Contact the teacher, talk with friends, practice walking to school, or get everything ready for their first day. Taking practical steps to prepare may help your child feel more control over an intimidating situation. Additionally, think about what you can do to celebrate at the end of the first day. You could start a countdown calendar to mark off the days until this celebration, to reframe anxiety about the school day.
Remember Past Successes
Talk about times when your child has done hard things before—starting preschool, making new friends, trying a new activity, or playing on a new team. Remembering their past successes may help children feel more confident that they can take on this new challenge. You can also talk about times when you, as caregivers, have had to do new things, either as children or as adults. This will help normalize all the feelings that your child may be having around new experiences.
Challenge Irrational Thoughts
If your child seems to be overly negative, pessimistic, or fearful about the new school year, then gently point out that it is normal to have these thoughts and feelings under stress, but that we should try to challenge thoughts and feelings that seem irrational, such as: “No one will like me,” “Everyone is going to be smarter than me,” “My teacher is going to be mean,” or “I’ll never like going to school.” Emphasize with your child that you will deal, together, with whatever challenges come.
Practice Coping Strategies
Practice calming coping strategies, such as deep breathing, regular mealtimes and bedtimes, and exercise. Do things that you enjoy doing together—drawing, reading, playing outside, going for walks.
Even moles feel anxious when they start school! It's Little Mole's first day of school, and he's nervous. What if he is the last to know his alphabet? What if he's not good at anything? With a good bit of anxiety, Little Mole heads to class and begins to compare himself to his peers. How will he ever measure up? But soon a crisis on the playground reveals that he has everything he needs in his own two paws to save the day.
This essay is a reprint of the backmatter in Little Mole Goes to School.